9 steps to build a powerful personal brand, according to Showpo's Jane Lu

SuppliedJane Lu

I get asked a lot about how to build your personal brand, so I thought I’d put something to paper.

To be very honest, I’ve never actually formally planned what my personal brand should be, and how I was going to grow it. So I thought I would reverse engineer it to work it out.

I started Showpo with no money, so had to rely on organic marketing channels — mainly social media, but I also tried to do our own PR. As a new brand back then, I was having absolutely no luck with any fashion PR. But I found that I was in the height of the entrepreneurship wave in Australia and the press loved that I was female, Asian (yay, you get a 2-for-1 for diversity!) ex-corporate and of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a kick-ass business and an amusing startup story.

Like my philosophy with business in general, I like to test everything out, see if it work and if it does, I double down on it. And I think that, pretty much, in a nutshell, is my approach to building my brand.

So when I found that business PR was working well for me, I obviously did more of it. And as the founder and CEO, this put me in the public eye and as the face of the company, which was never my intention when I started. Had you told me in 2010 that I would be doing some of the things I was doing now, I would have been terrified.

So anyway, back to the question of how to build your personal brand — here’s what I think are the steps to work through to develop your own:

1. Decide what you want you want your brand to be

So some of the questions to ask yourself are:

  • What are you really good at, what makes you unique? How do you stand out from your industry?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What do you want your name to be associated with?
  • What do you want your brand to represent?

2. Decide on how closely do you want your brand to be aligned with your business

So I don’t think this works well for all brands, but my personal brand is intrinsically linked to Showpo.

Our demographic is aligned to mine. Mind you, I’ve been stretching our target market with my age. When I first started the business, our key demographic was 16-26, and now it’s 16-36. Yes to keep myself in our market for as long as possible, but of course there’s obvious business benefits of expanding your market.

There’ll be moments where they won’t, so it’s not a rigid structure, so it’s something that’s really fluid and the interweave at the right times.

A recent good example of how my brand worked really well with Showpo was a recent crisis we had issues with our fulfilment, customer service, website and poor planning all at the same time.

I made a video apologising to our customers and also discussing this with my fellow business-owners and startup community. I thought that it was important to share with other businesses not just the ups, but also the downs.

I was really nervous about putting this up and whether I was going to get trolled for it. But the feedback was phenomenal. Our customers liked that I was holding myself accountable for my actions and it rebuilt the trust that they may have lost back into the brand. And other business owners appreciated the openness at which I spoke, and found it resonating with them.

3. Decide what your niche is

Who are you talking to. In this very globalised digital world, you can be niche and still have a large audience. Knowing who you want your audience to be, and who you’ll be targeting your content/brand to, will give you higher engagement.

4. Be consistent

Create content with them in mind, rather than just what you want to create. You need to make sure what you’re putting out there is adding value for your audience. (Like this article, I’m writing because it’s something I frequently get asked about). But of course, I always encourage testing out new things, like I’ve done travelling blogging, skit-based videos, chilly eating contests, to see what else resonates with your audience and also as a fun creative outlet. But do this once your brand is more established, so that your messaging is not confusing. To create top-of-mind awareness, you need to make your branding consistent.

5. Be authentic

Uhhh I know what you’re thinking… “be authentic” is so overused and so cliched, but in order to be consistent and to connect with your audience, you absolutely need to be genuine. Plus, it would be soooo exhausting otherwise.

6. Be receptive and responsive

Be ready to change. Be responsive to what people what. I get so much out of the Q&A at the end of doing public speaking because it teaches me, for that audience group, what it is about me and my story that has resonated with them and has intrigued them and they want to know more about.

7. Find your platform

I want to clarify that personal branding isn’t about numbers. It’s not about how many Instagram followers and vlog subscribers you have. Though they may give validation that you’re onto something that people are interested it, they’re not the right metrics of determining whether you’ve built a meaningful brand.

And it’s not about being across all the channels, it’s about nailing one of them. And then you can grow and expand as your find your brand and community evolve.

I saw that my customers and potential community for my brand was on Instagram, so this is when I created my own account @thelazyceo

The important thing about social media is to create content that is native to each platform. For example, my insta feed is lot more fashion based given the nature of Instagram. My insta stories are a lot more candid where I can bring out my personality more than on other platforms.

Of course you can cross-share and cross-syndicate, but it needs to be relevant or you’re just spamming and killing your own engagement.

Then I realised that something that I was good at, and had somewhat of a competitive advantage of, was being able to speak to camera and create video content. This was good timing as this was when Facebook’s algorithm startec favouring video content. So a year or so later, I created my own Facebook page. Here I’ve got a mix of vlog content of business videos mixed with lifestyle videos of behind the scenes as a CEO.

I also then created my own channel on YouTube, but mainly for the purpose of diversifying marketing channels from the Facebook powerhouse which as you know also owns Instagram.

8. Do all boring admin stuff

Get yourself a unique handle across all the platforms. And I know I said that it’s not about being across all the channels, but you don’t know how your brand will evolve and how platforms will change. Like Snapchat.

But also, for example, I never really gave much thought about LinkedIn, but I’ve just realised this year that I’ve got more followers on my LinkedIn than my YouTube and Facebook (as in my public profie, not Showpo’s). And my handle is janelu2012 because I created without too much care – not ideal. And until recently, this was my profile pic:

9. Growing your brand through PR and putting out good content

Once you’ve done all that, then start creating good content. Create content that people will want to watch. Look at content that is trending and viral and see what they’re doing differently to yours, and try and decipher why you think it’s trending.

Go to through your existing content and see what has good engagement, what people want to see more of, and what has bad engagement, what didn’t resonate with your existing community. Because it’s your existing community that will be sharing and commenting on your future content and bringing more eyeballs to it.

Then it’s also about getting yourself in front of different audiences. Once you have your brand position and your unique value proposition figured out, you can start putting yourself out there for public speaking, entering industry awards, collaborating with others on podcasts and Facebook Live and YouTube videos, press opportunities.

When you’re at these events, see what people are asking you about. What people are interested in. Which of course changes for different audiences. This further helps you understand what it is that makes you special. And of course, then you double down on that.

Anyway, I’m still trying to figure it all out, but I guess that’s what I know for now :)

Jane Lu is the CEO of Showpo and has transitioned from a business analyst at accounting firms KPMG and EY, to a fashion savvy entrepreneur, social media expert and the owner of the Showpo empire. The online shopping site began in 2010 and 8 years later has a 3 million+ social following and is on track to reach their 2020 goal of 100 million revenue.

This article was originally published on Linkedin and has been republished with permission from the author. Read the original article here.

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